If a report card was given out to American media based on their coverage of the Middle East, the grade would be barely passing, according to those who compare it to overseas coverage.
"I give them a C-," said William Drummond, professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, referring to U.S. news outlets’ coverage of conflict in the Middle East.
Drummond said he feels American media outlets rarely put Mideast issues in the right context, and even more rarely talk about the consequences. "Look at the British papers; they are so much better, even the Indian papers, as far as context and consequences," he said. "I think we’re just barely average."
British news outlets , he said, put the stories about the Middle East conflict in context: a view that separates government interests from the regional interests. On the other hand, Drummond says the majority of the U.S. press is unable to do the same, especially after September 11th.
"From day one I think we were all caught in the glamour of a military engagement and a lot of the stories that were being done were ‘GI Joe stories;’ local news media went out to Fairfield and watched the planes take off ," Drummond said. "But all of this stuff was really a worm’s eye view of what was going on overall: we’re going to commit U.S. forces 10,000 miles away without a real clear goal in mind of what we’re up to."
Part of the problem he said, was the lack of demanding readers. "Most of the people here are relatively inert and we’re not politically engaged," he said adding that the foreign coverage is more of an "annoyance" to a population obsessed with its own problems. "So, there’s not a total commitment to figuring this out," he said referring to the Middle East.
"Now, if this changes and we start, as we did, we woke up one morning back in the 60s and we were up to our rear ends in alligators with Southeast Asia, then people want to know and the media will react."
George Krimsky, co-founder of the International Center for Journalists and co-author of Hold the Press : The Inside Story on Newspapers wrote on foreign coverage in the January/February 2002 issue of the American Journalism Review.